An autonomous underactuated exoskeleton for loadcarrying augmentation

C. Walsh, K. Pasch, and H. M. Herr. An autonomous, underactuated exoskeleton for loadcarrying augmentation, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Beijing, China, Oct. 2006.


Metabolic studies have shown that there is a metabolic cost associated with carrying load [1]. In previous work, a lightweight, underactuated exoskeleton has been described that runs in parallel to the human and supports the weight of a payload [2]. A state-machine control strategy is written based on joint angle and ground-exoskeleton force sensing to control the joint actuation at this exoskeleton hip and knee. The joint components of the exoskeleton in the sagittal plane consist of a force-controllable actuator at the hip, a variable-damper mechanism at the knee and a passive spring at the ankle. The control is motivated by examining human walking data. Positive, non-conservative power is added at the hip during the walking cycle to help propel the mass of the human and payload forward. At the knee, the damper mechanism is turned on at heel strike as the exoskeleton leg is loaded and turned off during terminal stance to allow knee flexion. The passive spring at the ankle engages in controlled dorsiflexion to store energy that is later released to assist in powered plantarflexion. Preliminary studies show that the state machines for the hip and knee work robustly and that the onset of walking can be detected in less than one gait cycle. Further, it is found that an efficient, underactuated leg exoskeleton can effectively transmit payload forces to the ground during the walking cycle.

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